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Film review: Star Wars — The Rise Of Skywalker


Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

(12A) ★★★★✩

A LONG, long time ago (1977, to be exact) the first Star Wars movie hoved into cinemas, redefining the blockbuster landscape. Now, 42 years later, here it is. Episode IX. The end chapter of the ‘Skywalker’ saga. Not the ideal place to start, if you’re a newbie.

This is the very opposite of a stand-alone movie. It’s the finale of director JJ Abrams’ fan fiction trilogy that began with The Force Awakens. Like that film, it’s a precision-tooled nostalgia blast that conjoins old and new. Don’t panic — there are no spoilers here, but the opening half-hour is such a slavishly derivative mash-up of previous set-pieces, characters and plotlines (Millennium Falcon at lightspeed; hair-raising dogfights around gorges; cute droids; banter over chess; evil overlords) you’re longing for something new that one might even be able to spoil.

It’s a wild droid: An action scene from The Rise Of Skywalker, and Rey with Chewie, Poe and Finn

The Big Question hanging over the plot (that the script clangs out constantly) is ‘who are Rey’s parents?’ Yes, there is an answer. And no, we won’t tell you. But interestingly for a movie so designed to please fans, the final line is likely to provoke more outrage than Return Of The Jedi and The Last Jedi combined.

Tour de Force: Daisy Ridley and John Boyega (below) are back as Rey and Finn, with Richard E Grant making his Star Wars debut (bottom)

Daisy Ridley comes into her own as Rey, here mastering her Jedi powers, and her conflict with Ren (a superb Adam Driver) anchors the story. Elsewhere there’s the usual entertaining space opera allsorts: John Boyega’s Finn is again sidelined (though not to the outrageous extent of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose), Oscar Isaac is back in Han Solo mode as Poe, Richard E Grant is the new evil flunky and a tiny puppet called Babu Frik almost steals the show.

Meanwhile, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) is back for the first time since Last Jedi and there are awkwardly reconstructed scenes involving the late Carrie Fisher as Leia. Oh, and then there’s the return of [Spoiler!!!]. The last hour is so packed with life-and-death soap opera twists it goes from utterly compelling to plain spluttersome.

An epic call to overcome your fear, to join together and a paean to hope in dark times, the script’s heart is in the right place, but, unlike the last two instalments, The Rise Of Skywalker didn’t make me cry. It’s like during the last decade Hollywood has jerked my ‘nostalgia’ chain so relentlessly my inner child has run dry. An accomplished end to a culturally significant saga, but let’s hope we can now draw a line. Come 2020, please can Hollywood move on to galaxies new?